How to capture timeless black and white family portraits?

How to capture timeless black and white family portraits?

“To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul”- Andri Cauldwell

If you shoot family portraits on a regular basis, you will notice some photos look exceptionally good when edited in black and white. It is as if the colored version of them is only distracting the viewers from the subject with all the colors present in the frame.

In this blog of our “Ultimate family photography guide”, let’s dive into why and how shooting family photographs in black and white can really make your photos look way better than in color.

What makes black and white family photographs so special?

You don’t always have to shoot in black and white from your camera to get the best results.

Shoot in color in the RAW format and later edit the colors in the post-processing using Lightroom.

Black and white family portraits are special in a lot of ways. Let’s dive into what makes them so unique:

They are timeless

Trendy editing styles come and go but black and white are here to stay forever. Black and white portraits have been here of our ancestors while we all were growing up and they will still be here after we die.

As a family photographer, you can create exceptional photos of families in black and white that can stand the test of time.

Black and white family portrait of mother daughter

Source: Kate Gundarave from Pexels

A great quality of black and white family photos is one can’t tell the timeline on when it was clicked. It could have been clicked weeks or years ago.

Mostly the hair and clothing style gives it away in the family portraits but we will soon cover that down in our blog so you can click timeless black and white portraits of families.

All About emotions

Another feature of black and white portraits which makes them stand out is that they are all about emotions. It cannot be about what you are wearing or how pretty the scene is.

In (black and white) family photos, the beauty of them mainly lies in their emotions as their expressions are the most prominent thing of the portrait rather than the colors, location, or what they are wearing.

black and white family picture of father daughter hugging

Source: Alexandre Rizzon from Pexels

The main focus is on what emotions they are feeling and how they are making the viewers feel about it through their expressions.

Better Storytelling

Monochrome family portraits tell us stories of families like no other medium can do.

As a family photographer, clicking black and white portraits of children from time to time will document a beautiful collection of memories of them growing up.

black and white family portrait of mother teaching daughter washing hands

Source: Jennifer Murray from Pexels

From their first walk as a baby to their first cycle ride, shooting them consistently in black and white will tell their life story flawlessly and timelessly which they and their family will cherish forever.

How to dress for timeless black and white portraits?

In black and white family portraits, trendy picks with busy patterns or graphics are not suggested as they give out the timeline of when the picture was clicked. Also, avoid mixing dark and light color tone clothes as they will be distracting to the viewers. Although dark-colored clothes are said to make you look slimmer light-colored clothes will do just fine as well.

The key here is to keep the clothing as simple as possible and focus more on posing or emotions while clicking a documentary-style family photo rather than what you are wearing.

For kids:

Boys can wear something plain and formal like a shirt. It can be a bit hard to find such clothing for young kids but the result will be worth it. Girls can wear a pretty dress as long as it is not distracting.

Black and white Portrait of kids

Source: Mark Nixon Photography

Always recommend your clients (Family members) to bring something extra in case they are not sure.

For men:

Again plain and simple is the key. For men, a nice plain shirt with a good fitting is the best choice. Wearing a round neck with a jacket will also look great. Just make sure it is going well along with the rest of the family.

Black and white daddy daughter portrait

Source: Mark Nixon Photography

For women:

For black and white portraits, women look great in a plain simple dress or a nice top with dark jeans. The mother-daughter can also match their clothes by wearing the same dress or of the same color.

black and white Mother baby portrait

Source: Mark Nixon Photography

Shooting photos for black and white

It is important to note that it’s not mandatory to set your camera in the black and white mode to shoot amazing black and white family portraits. You can shoot the photos in color and later edit them in Lightroom giving you more control over every color and tone.

However, as a family photographer, it is better to keep in mind that you are shooting for black and white and not for a colored version of the portrait. This will help you get rid of everything that will not look good in black and white.

The same is true for colored photos as some photos look great only when the colors are present in the portrait.

Light is really important in black and white photos and you will have to mainly adjust your camera settings according to the light, which is mostly the same for the colored photos.

outside sunny black and white portrait of family

Source: Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

For family portraits in the low-light areas, you can increase your ISO without worrying about the grain as in black and white portraits, the grain can make the photo have a rough film-like look.

filmy black and white portrait of women

Source: Darya Sannikova from Pexels

If you want to make the atmosphere of the family portrait look full of joy, choose a bright area to photograph the family to reflect it in the black and white photo.

black and white happy family portrait light

Source: Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Editing Black and White Family Portraits:

Family photos can be edited in black and white either by the personal taste of the photographer or depending on the subject and their expressions, family photographers can edit accordingly.

If edited right the black and white tones can greatly highlight the fine details present in the portrait.

In Adobe Lightroom there is a lot of room to play with using selective colors, tones as well as HSL.

For babies and children, you can use soft black and white tones to make them look even more adorable.

black and white soft edit portrait of a baby

Source: Mark Nixon Photography

For couples-only photos, you can use heavy contrast to give their portrait a romantic look.

black and white high contrast portrait edit of couple

Source: Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Editing a photo can be very subjective especially when colors are involved but in black and white photos editing is more about balancing the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows- which all can be manipulated easily using the tone curve in Lightroom.

Conclusion

As a family photographer, you should be open to experimentation. Black and white portraits can be a great change if you have been photographing in color for a while. It gives a new perspective to things such as light and shadows which some photographers can make use of creatively in their pictures.

“One sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.”

-Ansel Adams

Want to save your photo editing time?

Hey, I'm Aayush Arora, founder of FilterPixel. FilterPixel has saved 10k hours for photographers around the globe. My only question is, how many it will be able to save for you?

Learn more →

Photography workflow series